While the police force pulled out all the stops to find Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde's son-in-law's stolen car, it was his daughter's alertness that helped locate the Pajero, thereby saving the police machinery some blushes.
Three days after the SUV was stolen from Bawala Compound at Currey Road, Shinde's daughter Sholapur MLA Praniti Shinde assisted the police in recovering her brother-in-law's vehicle, which was found abandoned at a slum area in Bandra Reclamation on Saturday.
After the vehicle was taken into police custody, the NM Joshi police heaved a sigh of relief, as their challenge to locate the minister's son-in-law Raj Shroff's vehicle came to an end. But they still have a task at hand, as the police have yet to identify and trace the miscreants who stole the SUV.
According to the police, they had formed several squads to trace the SUV. MiD DAY had highlighted the lengths the Home Minister's office went to recover the vehicle. "A squad was deployed at every exit point in the city and we were checking CCTV footage from all toll nakas to ascertain if the car had left the city. Our staff was deployed at Vashi, Mulund and Dahisar toll nakas," said Kishore Shinde, inspector at N M Joshi Marg police station.
At 9 pm on Saturday, as Praniti was making her way from Pali Hill, Bandra, towards Worli in her vehicle driven by her chauffeur, she noticed her brother-in-law's SUV pass her by near Lilavati Hospital. "Immediately an observant Praniti, with the help of her driver Vijay Kharat and bodyguard Abhang, gave chase to the car and almost stopped the SUV, but the SUV driver managed to escape, heading towards Dadar. Praniti immediately called the police control room and informed them about the sighting, and within minutes the Bandra police began an intensive search for the car," said Kishore Shinde.
The Bandra police then started visiting slums in the area and three hours later, they found the abandoned car near Lal Matti slums at Bandra Reclamation. The Bandra police handed over the car to the NM Joshi police who had registered a theft case against unknown persons. "The accused managed to flee. We only managed to recover the car and found slippers that they left behind," said Shinde.
"We believe the unidentified accused are locals who stole the SUV for a joyride and later discarded it after they realised they were being chased. We had formed three squads to trace the car. We had also contacted Talsari police in Gujarat to look out for a Pajero with this number," said a police officer from N M Joshi Marg. With the recovery of the car, cops said their tension had diminished.
"If we were unable to find the SUV, it would have been a huge disappointment for us and there would have been tremendous pressure on us to find it. But it's good that an alert Praniti found it," said the police officer. The NM Joshi Marg police will hand over the Pajero to Raj Shroff today. Usually the police ask the owner to approach the court, and get it released from the court. But in this case, the SUV will be released with the permission of the assistant commissioner of police.
Raj Shroff's Pajero was stolen from Bawala Compound on Thursday night. The driver Vijay Kharat had driven the car to his home and had parked near his residence when it was stolen in the night.